Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Tag Archives: Perspective

Dancing In The Rain

A good friend of mine, who I recently realized was in fact one of those great friends, sent me this sentiment last night:

Good stuff and very true!

Perfectly Average

I had a conversation earlier this evening with a good friend of mine.  She keeps me on my feat with her whit and honesty.  She’s also pretty good and making sure I never get a big head.  Tonight she reminded me that I’m average.  I’m 5’9″ and 168 lbs.  Both average specs.  My GPA and SAT scores were both average.  She was quick to explain that I’m also average looking (geez, thanks).  I kept waiting for the “but,” but it never came.  Her pep talk, if you could call it that, was specifically tailored to reminding me that I’m average.

Well, she’s right.  I’m average across the board.  That’s ok.  I’m perfectly average and that’s worked a-o-k for the last 31 years.  One way to look at it, is that I’m not below average.  It’s like the old saying goes, to the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world…even if you’re average.

Damaged Goods

I was working for a dot com startup in Chicago in 2001, the first time I heard the phrase, “damaged goods.” Like many companies in that era we had gone from 1 person to 100 to 400 to 150 to 600 and eventually we locked the doors to the office so we could mail people their last paychecks. Ahh the good old days, right?  Well, we had just undergone a massive layoff that I was sorta part of (long story) and I was having a beer with Anthony Isla.  I was senior to Anthony, but he was definitely more experienced.  He said to me, well at least in this business climate we won’t be considered damaged goods.  I was confused, asked him to explain and he did.  In short, there’s only so many times that you can get laid off before future employers start wondering if it’s not the situations, but you who are the problem.

Personal and dating relationships are no different.  Those of us who are divorced start off with a major disadvantage in the dating game because there’s an inherent perception that we are damaged goods.  After all if we were poor at being married the first time, why would it be different the second time.  I have scene this up close and personal.  It’s shocking how quickly your confidence is destroyed after you get the “look.” Trust me, when you get the look, you never forget.  It stings.  Of course, the look pales in comparison to the things people say.  Believe me, they aren’t shy about it.

Professionally, I’ve never felt like damaged goods.  I survived two layoffs and became stronger after each of them.  I remember a conversation I had with Cheryl, after the second one. In pretty plain language she made it clear it was their loss, I was amazing and I had still had much more to give.  Well, she was right. After both layoffs it took me less than 3 weeks to get new positions. I wasn’t damaged goods. I simply had a poor partner who didn’t realize my potential.  These days, I interview a lot of folks.  The ones who have bounced around wear the face of someone who believes they are damaged goods.  It’s a horrible feeling and I always try to make it clear that I’m concerned with what they can do for my team, our agency and our clients.  I do my best to not see them as damaged goods.

Personally, it’s been tougher.  The other day I was drifting into damaged goods land.  In a conversation with a new friend, I stated, “well, it’s tough, because I’m damaged goods.”. Like a good friend, she said “you are not damaged goods” and then offered to “explain” that with words and actions to whomever had made me feel that way.  Talk about a hell of a friend.  It’s ironic that it took someone I barely knew to set me straight.  But, I guess there are simply people out there with good hearts who can see past out battle scars.  Her Facebook page has these two great quotes:

1. “Don’t cry because its over smile because it happened”
2. “A Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no ones definition of your life; define yourself….”

Smart stuff. It applies to what we do professionally and personally.  Take each experience, even the negative ones, and look for the good.  There’s no sense in lying to yourself and completely bad mouthing your former company, boss or boyfriend.  It makes you seem petty, immature and unable to see the big picture.  At the same time, don’t let someone else make you feel less than who you really are.  I know this sounds Tony Robbins like, but it’s a really important concept.  Don’t be defined by being laid off, fired, divorced, dumped, etc.  Those situations, even when cumulated, are still small slivers that only tell a small part of the story of YOU!

I am not damaged goods. Neither are you.

The Line At The Door Is Always Long

I’ve had some really poor managers in my career. In roughly 14 years I’ve had 22 different managers. It’s astonishing to me that only 4 of them are what I’d term as great. One of those bosses was Kevin Doohan. I met Kevin when I was working at ConAgra Foods. He was the first manager I had who could bring real world credibility in the interactive space and still be savvy enough to navigate the politics of corporate culture. I usually ended up with a manager who had one of the other, not both. I learned a lot from Kevin. My 3 years working for Kevin accelerated my business management, critical thinking and strategic skill development.

Kevin was always teaching. Every conversation and interaction was a chance for him to share his knowledge. I didn’t necessarily always agree with everything Kevin preached, but that’s what made us successful as a team. There’s two things that always stick with me:

  1. The line at the door is always long. This was Kevin’s perspective, initially on agencies, and eventually on personnel. When agency partners would complain, raise a stink and come across as holier than thou, Kevin would remind them that they aren’t obligated to work with ConAgra Foods. But, they should know, the line of agencies at the door who wanted to work with ConAgra Foods was pretty damn long. I say, eventually personnel, because even when I resigned, Kevin had the same perspective. While he was disappointed in my decision, he wasn’t going to beg me to stay because there was a line of people who could take my job.  In short, you’re replaceable and don’t think you aren’t, because I have 100s of companies and people who want you have.
  2. With a similar subtext, Kevin told me the story of Gamma One, one of the first places he worked at. I don’t remember the time frame, if he worked there before college, during college or right after, but either way, it was early in his career. There was a guy working at the company who felt he was being underpaid and wasn’t getting the “respect” he believed he deserved. They key, by the way, is DESERVED…notice he didn’t feel he had EARNED it. Anyhow, eventually things came to a head, this guy had interviewed for a job at another company and informed his boss he had a GREAT offer and was ready to walk. This guy’s expectation was that his boss would of course match, if not beat the offer on the table, because his position was too valuable to lose. Instead, his boss stated something to the effect of, “Congratulations. That’s great. Gamma One was here before you and it’ll be here after you.” True to form, more than 15 years later, Gamma One is still HERE. In short, you’re not as valuable as you think you are and if you walk in to my office and treat things like a hostage negotiation, you’re going to lose, because I don’t negotiate with terrorists.

I’ve applied a lot of that thinking to the positions I took after ConAgra Foods. I manage my team and my partners with the same philosophy. Heck, I’ve even applied it to friendships and relationships – I won’t chase after people. If you want to leave a relationship, if you want to quit, if you deliver the ultimatums, I’ll let you walk…because the line at the door is long.

But, I’m not silly, myopic or hypocritical. I also know that the same holds true to my own career. If I quit my job at MARC USA tomorrow or were let go, the simple truth is that there’s 100s of people ready to take my job and fill the void. Of course, we always believe our leaving will matter more than it does.  We say things like, “well, when client X here’s what happens, you’ll be kicking yourself in the ass.” Inherently, our pride gets in the way and of course we think, “well they’re screwed now” or “I’ve got leverage, because I have history” – or something to that effect. But, pride is foolish.

We always think we’re more valuable than we are.  But, the truth is we’re all replaceable, because the line at the door is always long.

The Hypocrisy Of Traditions

Traditions are a funny thing.  Some are easy to let go.  Others, we hold on to with a grip reminiscent of someone holding on to the side of a cliff…fearful that they could fall if for even a second they release that grip.  We grow up with traditions.  Some of us open presents on Christmas morning because that’s what we did as children.  Some of us go to church on Sundays, because it’s what we did with our parents.  Yes, our traditions stick with us.

I was having a discussion this weekend with some friends about funeral traditions. The topic was relevant because my grandmother had just passed away; she was 92. Anyhow the conversation morphed from just funerals traditions to traditions in general. By the end of the night it was clear that we’ve become cherry pickers when it comes to traditions. As a society and a people, we’ve elected to arbitrarily choose which traditions we want to maintain, enforce apply and expect of one another. If you will, we’ve elected to live in the gray and avoid black and white.

For example, take weddings, or rather the concept of marriage.  Today, we fret over the size, shape and of course brand of diamond ring we buy.  Some how, the purchasing of a diamond for a woman has become a modern day tradition.  I put emphasis on the idea of modern day, because ironically, the original wedding ring tradition was that a man provided a simple metal band.  As wikipedia tells us:

In older times, the wedding rings were not only a sign of love, but were also linked to the bestowal of ‘earnest money’. According to the prayer book of Edward VI: after the words ‘with this ring I thee wed’ follow the words ‘This gold and silver I give thee’, at which point the groom was supposed to hand a leather purse filled with gold and silver coins to the bride.

Historically, the wedding ring was rather connected to the exchange of valuables at the moment of the wedding rather than a symbol of eternal love and devotion. It is a relic of the times when marriage was a contract between families, not individual lovers. Both families were then eager to ensure the economical safety of the young couple. Sometimes it went as far as being a conditional exchange as this old (and today outdated) German formula shows: ‘I give you this ring as a sign of the marriage which has been promised between us, provided your father gives with you a marriage portion of 1000 Reichsthalers’.

If you will, back in the day (roughly 1215 during the medieval era), a ring was provided as a means for initiating the contract between two people…where that contract would provide a dowry (money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband in marriage) to the man. So, basically the bride gets a ring, the parents no longer have to support their child and the groom gets a gift (financial and/or other). Talk about a 3-way trade!

Now of course today, we still exchange rings, albeit a much more expensive one, but we lose the dowry. Could you imagine a situation where someone proposed without a ring…or with simply a gold/silver band? For starters, the man would be considered cheap and the woman would obviously feel embarrassed.  It could never happen, because rings today are status symbols.  The larger the ring, the more he cares…the more money he makes…the more he loves you…the luckier she is….etc.

We accept that the times have changed from the medieval days and that there’s a new socially accepted tradition for getting engaged, but society at large would never tolerate the idea of a dowry (yes, I know in some cultures dowries are still exchanged). To that, I say hypocrisy.  By accepting so much grey, we’ve lost the idea of a tradition.  Instead, we’ve cobbled together something we call tradition, but in truth, resembles a sloppily stitched patchwork quilt.

Perhaps, that patchwork quilt is who we are as a society.  After all, we are the country known as a melting pot.  The institute of marriage is just one of many examples of the hypocrisy of traditions.  But, it’s one we can all understand and relate to; that’s why I picked it for this post.  Every day, we blur the lines and manufacture new traditions by eliminating the traditions of the past that we no longer find relevant.  In doing so, are we negating the relevancy of those new traditions?  Well, seeing as a diamond is forever has been a slogan since 1947, perhaps not.

The American Dream

I saw this story posted on the wall at my local Jimmy Johns.  I’d heard it before and loved the sentiment.  It also seemed to fit with the values Jimmy Johns has.  They don’t over charge.  They don’t gauge.  They charge a fair price for a solid sub.  I dig.

An American businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long it took you to catch them?” The American asked.

“Only a little while.” The Mexican replied.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The American then asked.

“I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs.” The Mexican said.

“But,” The American then asked, “What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life, senor.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds you buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

“Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own can factory. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then, senor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO (Initial Public Offering) and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

“Millions, senor? Then what?”

The American said slowly, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”

Time Is The Most Valuable Currency

Last night I saw, Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps.  I’ve been looking forward to this for some time.  I was a big fan of the original Wall Street movie and was chomping at the bit to see Michael Douglas reprise his role as Gordon Gekko.  I won’t ruin the movie for you and give away secrets, but I will tell you that there is a profound scene in which Gordon Gekko explains that time, not money is the most valuable currency.

Of late, I’ve been thinking the same thing.  If you really think about it, time is the one thing that every day we get less of.  It’s a rapidly depreciating asset that we aren’t even control of.  It’s tragic really that we don’t value something like time more than cars, jewelry, HD TVs and of course money.  All of those and more can easily be added to, replaced and in some cases they can appreciate in value.  Nope, not time.  If you store it, unlike money, you lose it.  If you waste it, you can’t earn it back.  Time is ultimately invaluable.

The president of our agency, Michele Fabrizi, often challenges me and our Sr. leadership staff with an important question.  If you only had 2 hours in a day, how would you spend that time to drive the agency forward.  I won’t give way what I’d do here, but I can tell you that this concept works beyond the borders of our jobs.  If all you had was 2 hours, how would you spend it?  Would you really spend it shopping?  Or watching TV?  Or getting a manicure?  Would you?  I sure hope not, because all of those past times are wasted time.

Give some thought to the people that matter most in your life and the activities that make you happy.  Those are the things worth those valuable 2 hours.  Money, ultimately is insignificant unless you have none or you’re filthy rich.  If you’re in between those two extremes, money is worth less than time.  Why?  Well, if you have no money and all of a sudden have several thousand, you won’t waste it on expensive meals, because you know what it’s like not to have any money.  In effect, you’d treat every dollar very preciously.  At the other end of the spectrum are people like Bill Gates.  They have the luxury of being in complete control of how those 2 hours are spent, because everything is an option.  For you and I, using those two hours to fly to another state would be impossible.  For Bill, it’s possible with a simple phone call.

For all the rest of us in the middle, we spend most of our time chasing money instead of chasing moments.  And I can tell you, from experience, all the money in the world doesn’t help you get back a missed moment.

A highly recommend the movie and recommend you think about the value of time:

The Danger Of Best Practices

It’s not secret I’m a photography guy.  I love photos.  I love cameras.  I love film (digital or real).  I love the magic you can capture and make with camera gear.  If you were sign up for a photography class you’d learn a great number of things.  You’ll cover the basics like f-stops, shutter speeds, and lens selections.  You’ll also cover many of the “rules” of photography like, Sunny 16, never putting a horizon line in the middle of a photo and of course the rule of 3rds.

These are great rules, principles and philosophies that have a place and serve a purpose.  You need to understand these rules and “best practices” so that you can eventually break them.  The masters of photography, the ones who’ve created work that stands out have learned that you can’t simply rely on best practices.

If you took 100 photographers to a location and asked them to shoot a subject, leveraging only “best practices” you’d end up with 100 nearly identical photos.  The best practices would in effect stunt the creativity of the photographers.  This is the classic case of asking everyone to follow the paint by numbers chart explicitly.

Greatness does not come from conformity.  Greatness does not come from doing what everyone else does.  Greatness does not come from following the crowd.  Greatness does not come from applying the same model, that everyone else learned during their MBA program, to the problem.

No, greatness comes from understanding the best practices and then figuring out how to extend and break them.  Greatness comes from blending history with vision.  You can’t forget the past.  You can’t ignore what has happened before.  You can’t discount the value of best practices and those that have leveraged them for success.  But, if you simply copy another company’s model and leverage the same boring best practices that the “industry” has adopted you’ll never differentiate, stand out or be memorable.  You’ll simply float into the seam of sameness that has plagued far too many companies.

In the movie, Almost Famous, Frances McDormand’s character says in a conversation with Billy Crudup’s character, “be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.” She indicates she’s quoting Goethe. There are many ways to interpret the quote. Certainly, as a marketer, one way to interpret it is, if you are bold in your thinking, your marketing and your product innovation, consumers will come to your “aid” and become loyal. Just ask the Dyson guy, being bold seems to have generated that type of fait, goodwill and sales from a very supportive consumer base.

As consumers, we want bold. We want different. We want things that standout. We want to defy convention. Marketers, are you listening?

Finding Out About Myself

Last week I went to Mexico. It’s one of my favorite destinations. I’ve always found relaxation, piece, clarity and direction every time I visit. This time I came to Mexico with foggy head, cloudy eyes and a heavy heart. I was hoping to come back from Mexico with clarity about 3 key things. Unfortunately, I only nailed 2 of them.  I promised to share the 3 things once I got back from Mexico and a deal is a deal.

  1. My Career: I often take stock of my career.  I think about what I’ve done, what I’m doing and more importantly, what I want to be doing.  There’s a great line in the movie, “Road To Perdition” where Jude Law says to Tom Hanks, “To get paid to do what you love, isn’t that the dream?”  Well, amen to that.  I think, I’ve always thought that I loved marketing and advertising.  When an ad comes on the television I don’t skip it, I watch it.  I snap photos of in-store signage.  My spine tingles when I see a smart print ad.  Yeah, I’m an ad guy.  I also live and breathe the interactive space.  There’s a reason you’ll find a litany of related links when you Google, “Adam Kmiec.”  I took a lot of time to think about what all of that and you know what I realized?  I don’t love advertising and interactive.  I just love that I’m good at it.  That sounds a bit egotistical; I realize that.  But it’s true.  What I love is photography.  I’ve always loved photography.  I grew up with a camera in my hand.  It’s one of those things that my dad passed down to me and I’ll pass it down to John.  So while I enjoy what I do, I don’t love it.  It may sound like a duh, but it’s not.  This was a huge revelation to me.
  2. My Kids And Being A Dad: What makes a good dad?  Is it face time?  Is it your ability to provide for them financially?  What about emotionally?  Any time you go through a divorce and you’re not the person “living” with the kids I think it’s natural to wonder, how will I be a good parent?  I’ve largely lived by the idea that it makes more sense to bust you ass working while the kids are young, so that when they’re older you can spend more time with them.  But, the more I’m on the road, the more time I spend in a plane, the more nights and weekends I’m working…only to see how much the kids have changed and the moments I’ve missed, I’ve started to rethink that proposition.  In a post divorce world what it will take to be a dad is vastly different than in a pre-divorce world.  One of my big ah-has was that what it takes to be a good dad to John will be different than what it takes to be a good dad for Cora.  I’ve got a pretty damn good idea of what being a good dad means, today, and I’m ready to live that idea.
  3. That Special Someone: We’re all looking for love, aren’t we?  It’s no fun going through life alone.  Experiences are less powerful without having someone to share them with.  I had a pretty good idea of who that person was before I came to Mexico. But, I wasn’t sure if she thought the same way.  When I landed on US soil I thought we were on the same page.  I was all ready to put a check mark next to this one, but the jury is still out.  I won’t lie, I’m bummed.  I think I went through all those crazy stages…all at one time…denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  I’m finally at acceptance.  But, it’s an interesting version of acceptance.  I’m going to live by the idea that you should never make someone your priority when they only make you an option. Life is too damn short to waste time chasing after someone who clearly doesn’t value you for you. It finally hit me the other morning that sometimes we need to remember that people are who they are, not who we wished they were. And the real question is can we live with that?

Ok, so this has nothing to do with the iPhone, fourSquare or DSPs. I recognize that as of late there’s been less marketing and interactive content on this site…and there’s been more personal content. But, you know what, it’s my site and I can do that 🙂 Your regular programming will be retuning shortly!